By Larry Gallardo, Hidalgo County Constable and TAC President
We just wrapped up the 2018 TAC Legislative Conference in Austin, which was my first as President. It was a fantastic event, held for the first time at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel with hundreds of county officials from all over the state in attendance. It was a great honor for me to be part of such an important and educational event.
This year’s theme was “Restore What’s Right: Your Voice. Your County. The Truth.” And as a group, we came together to reexamine what the realities of county government mean for our communities, and how we can give voice to these facts in the Legislative process. As county officials, we need to let the folks at the Capitol know what we do every day at the county-level and how what they do affects us and our constituents. This year’s conference focused our attention on how we can advocate for our county’s needs and offered us tools to make the best and most informed decisions for our constituents.
Heading into the 86th legislative session, it is essential that we stand together on the main issues that we all face. While our needs vary from county to county — from rural to urban, from coastal to the panhandle, from small to expansive — we all do share some of the same concerns. Most importantly, that the state allow local decisions to be made at the local level. We have a lot of work ahead of us — especially with the effort to end unfunded mandates.
This year’s conference was a great place to get started and do some collaborative brainstorming. Moving forward, we will need to continue that momentum. A good next step is to visit the new website focused on the issues around unfunded mandates, www.ProtectPropertyTaxpayers.org. TAC has also created two new informational cards, one of which includes a tear-off portion that can be mailed to the governor or lieutenant governor. You can order these free from the TAC website at www.county.org/unfundedmandates. You can read more about the initiative and how to get involved on page 20. I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of these free tools and let your legislators know that we’re here and demand to be heard.
Aside from the great success of the conference’s sessions and speakers, it was also an opportunity to say goodbye in some ways to our outgoing Executive Director Gene Terry. He has done excellent work at TAC, leading the way through many major achievements for the Association. His final TAC Legislative Conference speech in the closing session was typical Gene — lively, funny, witty and empowering. He reminded us what restoring what’s right really means. It’s not going back to some mythical golden age. It’s keeping vital and alive the institution of local governance — it’s us doing what we already do every day in serving our neighbors in communities across this state. We must recommit to our calling daily. Particularly in these uncertain times, the government closest to the people — county government —serves the people best.
Gene never fails to inspire us all to do our best, for our county, for the taxpayers, and for each other. He will leave TAC at the end of the year, but he will always be a part of our family of counties.
This is my final President’s Letter of the year, so I’d like to end it by once again encouraging you to get involved in the legislative process, and make sure your voice is heard. Do it for the people you serve, for your fellow county officials and for Mr. Gene Terry, who has done it for us all for all these years. *